Updates

After spending more than a year gathering input from various rural stakeholders from across the state, the Governor's Rural Task Force released its Report in October 2016. The Report is full of recommendations on advancing rural communities, and the Task Force is already taking action on many of the recommendations. This page highlights the action steps taken by the Task Force.

FY 2018 Budget Requests

Based on the recommendations developed with input from over 40 stakeholder presentations and 120 committee participants from across the state, the Governor’s budget for FY 2018 includes over $21 million to fund programs recommended by the Rural Task Force.  These programs target site development, agribusiness, tourism, work-based learning, asset-enhancement opportunities, access to capital, and small business support.  This additional funding will compliment programs already underway including the retail development support and asset-based planning. Click here to track the progress of the budget (HB511/SB483) through the legislative process.

Broadband

Tennessee currently ranks 29th in the U.S. for broadband access, with 13 percent of the state lacking accessibility.  This issue is of tremendous importance to rural communities with 34 percent of rural residents  lacking coverage at recognized minimum standards due to low population density and challenging geography.   In January, Governor Haslam announced the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act to address broadband access gaps in Tennessee and in February, the Governor’s Rural Task Force launched a working group to address ways to increase adoption and digital literacy through existing programs.  For additional information on the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, click here.

Asset-Based Planning

Consistent with the long-term objective of the Rural Task Force of eliminating the number of counties considered federally distressed, TNECD, with support of many partners from the Rural Task Force, launched the asset-based planning initiative in 2016 to provide additional support to the 23 counties designated as distressed in either FY 2016 or FY 2017. 

TNECD contracted with the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service to develop action-oriented, short-term goals based on the communities’ assets. Meetings were held in each of the distressed counties in October and November of 2016 and the goals were developed through community input. In February of 2017, TNECD opened a grant program to ensure that this planning process impacts the key economic indicators of distressed counties. The grant is intended to be flexible so that each community applies for what will make the most impact for their community.  Additionally, TNECD will expand the program to include other Tier 3 and 4 communities in 2017.  With the support of partner agencies, this initiative helps communities identify their strengths, set goals to leverage those assets, and achieve goals that will drive improvement in economic indicators.

See more about this project beginning on page 57 of the Task Force report or visit the asset-based planning website.

Rural Economic Development Resource Guide and Best Practices Toolkit

TNECD Rural Development was tasked with creating and maintaining a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” online resource that will assist community leaders in identifying funding opportunities, training and technical assistance, and successful case studies in support of rural development implementation efforts.

Efforts to implement this project began in late 2016 - and the results are this brand new Rural Task Force website. The "Search for Grants & Resources" tab above is a searchable database of grants and information for rural communities to locate programs from the State and Rural Task Force community partners. Future work on this website includes adding more information from more partners.

See more about this project beginning on page 12 of the Task Force report.